EP 4: ONE-LINER CITY (STRANGER FILES AND THINGS)
Oh dear, Hopper and El have gotten cabin fever and are calling each other names. “Papa.” Ugh. “Brat.” Ooph. You guys, I think they really love each other. It’s so adorable. Don’t worry, they’ll get some time apart when he Hops right into a putrid tunnel of death vines.
But the real magic in this episode comes not from the witty repartee of the Sheriff/Orphan sitcom happening in the woods. It’s all about the juicy one-liners and wham-bam two-liners that deserve to be embroidered onto pillows for Mrs. Holland or put up on the marquee of the Hawkins movie theater. From the Quotable Quotes File, here is a breakdown of some of the best words to ever be spoken by actors.
Mike, Lucas, and Dustin are meeting in their favorite secret clubhouse, the AV room at school, to fantasize about future Apple products and discuss Will. Does he have true sight that lets him see into the Upside Down even when he’s not there? Can the giant sky tarantula hurt Will from above ground? Will they ever make a computer that fits in a tent fort? To make sure we know the stakes, Mike gives us a line that’s just begging to be the slogan for the whole damned operation:
“This isn’t D&D. This is real life.”
Put that in Indiana Jones font on a poster and call it a life, you’re done being awesome. That’s right, Mike. This isn’t D&D. It’s not any board game. As we learned in Episode 2, it’s really more of a Viewmaster. With a hint of arcade action. But anyway, still real life. The kind of real life where kids bike around solving government-funded interplanar demon possession crimes, and a black child who startles an armed policeman for fun with a cap gun gets $5 for it, and girls commune with their brainwashed mothers in metaphysical living rooms, and squashes have dark souls. Real life, get it? This isn’t the kind of thing where hero shields protect favorite characters from ultimate doom in order to propel a narrative. So act like it. But do take plus two to stealth for being fluent in walkie-talkie.
Let’s move to the Hawkins National Laboratory, where Dr. Labman Paulreiser is giving Jonathan and Nancy an all-access tour that includes the noxious cavity to the underworld, now behind glass like a very disappointing aquarium. Worst. Fieldtrip. Ever. When is feeding time? I want to not be there. Anyway, Dr. Paulreiser wants to be on the up-and-ups about evil science, so he gives us one of the favorite lines of guilty assholes everywhere:
“Mistakes have been made.”
Ooh, love that passive voice, it really drives home the lack of responsibility. When he can tell that his confession hasn’t quite landed, Dr. Paulreiser reassures Nance that they were “abundant mistakes.” Well, in that case. Mistake things once, shame on science. Mistake things abundantly, shame on Barb or the Russians or something. They should also paint this one on the side of their white vans so they can pre-emptively excuse any reckless driving.
Meanwhile, back at school, Max wants to know, am I part of this A-Team or not? Should I stay or should I go now? Put me in, coach, I’m ready to play. What exactly are we playing, again? It can’t be that complicated. I have long red hair, a skateboard, and sass-- something in there will prove valuable. So Will had a bit of an “episode” last year, I get it, we all know puberty is hard. Just let me in. Let me in. LET ME IN! Sorry, too vampire-sounding?
Lucas looks at Max, and delivers the most epic sentence so far in this series:
“There are just things.”
“Stranger things!” Every Single Viewer shouted back involuntarily. Lucas served it up and we all got to spike it back at the TV with a little pink wine and leftover Halloween candy spraying out for effect. Thanks, Lucas. It may not explain things to Max, but we needed that moment of superiority. Sometimes less is more, and Lucas’ delicate understatement hit that perfect tone of meaning nothing and covering everything at the same time. Delicious.
Back in the car after their private tour of carefully preserved hell, Nancy gets ready to deliver some sweet justice of her own. Turns out she had a tape recorder in her purse. Good thing that lab security is so tight! The Soviets will never be able to detect what’s going on in there. Nancy replays Labman Paulreiser’s greatest hits, “Mistakes” and “Abundant Mistakes,” then turns to Jonathan, ready for her close-up:
“Let’s burn that lab to the ground.”
Cue the heavy metal guitar riffs. Abundant guitar riffs. Nothing says kickass like a teenage girl with a heart full of revenge and a purse full of evidence, and I am ready for kickass. Abundant kickass. Will there be actual fire involved, or is this a metaphor? I’m excited either way. We will just have to wait and see.
Who knows what danger lurks in the heart of pithy zingers...but it’s definitely stranger.